Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)/Archive 50

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Archive 45 Archive 48 Archive 49 Archive 50 Archive 51 Archive 52 Archive 55

Numbers from zero to ten

I propose two changes to the numbers section. First, move the general comments about numbers to the top, before the comments on large numbers - seems more logical that way. Second, update the general comments section as follows. The comment that "some users prefer to spell out one to ten" is not helpful in a Manual of Style. We should be bold and have a standard. I suggest the following which is common in many manuals of style.

"In the body of an article, numbers from zero to ten should be spelt out as one, two, three, etc. Numbers greater than ten should use numerals. An exception is for multiple groups of numbered items in the same sentence - use the same format for like items, e.g. "They were seated in chairs ten and eleven in rows 5 through 15". In tables or other lists, numerals would generally be used for all numbers. It is considered awkward for a numeral to be the first word of a sentence: either recast the sentence or spell the number out. A consistent approach is required within each article. " Rillian 13:07, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

I have a feeling that it's like that because there isn't agreement over this internationally, just like English spelling and AD/CE, etc. If no one objects, however, then a standard is fine with me. Also just to clarify, under these rules, would it be acceptable to start a sentence with the word "Eleven" or not? --Spangineer[es] (háblame) 13:15, 26 May 2006 (UTC)
Eleven would be fine, it's numerals that you want to avoid at the start of a sentence, e.g. "21 cats walked past the store" versus "Twenty-one cats..." Rillian 14:15, 26 May 2006 (UTC)
I believe this is consistant with MLA style. I don't really know what APA has to say about it, though. -- uberpenguin @ 2006-05-26 14:13Z
According to my MLA handbook, their perference is that any number that can be spelled out in one or two words should be but to use numerals for others. So MLA would say "ten, twenty-one, one hundred, thirty million", but "3.75, 875, 25 thousand, 421 million". If we adopted that standard, it would be a broader statement than just zero to ten, and 11 and greater. Rillian 14:19, 26 May 2006 (UTC)
don't agree. I think it's excessive bond for editors, which really does not help. -- tasc talkdeeds 14:20, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

Here are the relevant sections from the APA manual

  • Spell out common fractions and common expressions (one-half, Fourth of July).
  • Spell out large numbers beginning sentences (Thirty days hath September . . .).
  • Spell out numbers which are inexact, or below 10 and not grouped with numbers over 10 (one-tailed t test, eight items, nine pages, three-way interaction, five trials).
  • Use numerals for numbers 10 and above, or lower numbers grouped with numbers
  • Use combinations of written and Arabic numerals for back-to-back modifiers (five 4-point scales).
  • Use combinations of numerals and written numbers for large sums (over 3 million people).

Rillian 14:39, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

Here are some notes from the The OAH Magazine of History Style Sheet

1. Whole numbers. Whole numbers from one through ninety-nine are spelled out in ordinary text, as well as any of these numbers followed by hundred, thousand, million, etc. The same general principle is applied to ordinal as well as cardinal numbers. 2. Consistency. Numbers applicable to the same category should be treated alike within the same context, whether paragraph or series of paragraphs. Do not use figures for some and spell out others. (E.g., "The population of Gary, Indiana, grew from 10,000 to 175,000 in only thirty years.) Rillian 14:41, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

I generally approve of the recent addition that was made in relation to this matter. Small numbers are often like crass little blops in a sentence, and WP has far too many of them. (Except that it might be one to nine spelt out, not one to ten.) Tony 16:05, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

This proposal is absolutely correct and should be implemented. - Centrx 22:26, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

To be added?:

Whole numbers from zero to ten are spelled out as words. Numbers above ten may be written as numerals or spelled out in words, where appropriate. Within a context or a list, style should be consistent. (Example: There were 5 cats, 12 dogs, and 30 birds. or There were five cats, twelve dogs, and thirty birds.) It is considered awkward for a numeral to be the first word of a sentence: either recast the sentence or spell the number out. Within each article, style should be consistent.

-- Centrx 18:41, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

I really like to "two words" guideline. Tasc said of one of the proposals "it's [an] excessive bond for editors" - not really, no-one has to follow the MoS when they're writing, MoS is a. guidelines and b. something that sub-editors (in the old sense) would apply, although if writers follow it so much the better. Rich Farmbrough 08:00 9 June 2006 (UTC).
So that would be one through twenty and intervals of ten on up to a hundred? I think there is a problem having a policy where 91 is written as a numeral and ninety is written out as a word, when the only difference is a hyphen and a generally one-syllable word. -- Stupid, blinko question added by me, Centrx on some day past
No, "any number that can be spelled out in one or two words". Rich Farmbrough 12:56 29 June 2006 (GMT).

Since the above paragraph is the result of agreement in the rest of this section and no one has objected to it, I will add it. It is still closer to what you propose than the current styleguide. -- Centrx 04:41, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

It might be worthwhile to also note that you'd almost never want to spell out numbers when used as a value in conjunction with a unit. -- uberpenguin @ 2006-06-12 05:19Z
I see no problem with "twelve kilometres", "nine kilograms", etc. —Centrxtalk • 22:39, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
I 2nd the idea that any number that can be spelt out in 1 or 2 words should be. I also agree that "twelve kilometres" is fine as would "10 kg" be but one should mix these, i.e., "twelve kg" or "10 kilograms" would be banned. Jimp 02:42, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

Samples disappeared

Would someone point me to the discussion about removing the following two formats from the page:

[[1958]]-[[02-17]] : 1958-02-17
[[1958-02-17]]: 1958-02-17

Otherwise, I suppose we are to restore. -- User:Docu

The discussion is archived at Wikipedia talk: Manual of Style_(dates_and_numbers)/archive48. However there was a doubtful interpretation of what consensus means. A sizable minority pleaded for keeping these formats, but were denied. Thanks for the support here and I agree they should be restored. −Woodstone 18:09, 29 May 2006 (UTC)
Why would these formats be appropriate for prose? If the argument is that they are unambiguous, then they are still unambiguous if the alphabetic name of the month is used, and without hyphens, that is: 1958 February 17 -- Centrx 21:02, 29 May 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for pointing me to the archive. I tend to agree with the general idea, but would formulate the result a bit differently. As this wasn't specifically adressed, I suggest we readd the sample and remove the invention that they shouldn't be wikilinked (#ISO date formats). For tables, lists, DOB/DOD, the format is useful. -- User:Docu
They should definitely be wikilinked where they occur. However the first format seems an obtuse variation of the second and could be omitted, and I would like to see some encouragement to use ISO dates only in specific contexts. They still show up as full dates for most of us. Rich Farmbrough 08:05 9 June 2006 (UTC).

Dates of birth/death with additional spelling of name

At the beginning of biographies, there are several variations to add a second spelling, e.g. (Russian: Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин) to Vladimir Putin. From some of the solutions used:

(1) with semicolon
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Russian: Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин; born October 7, 1952) is a Russian politician.
(2) with comma
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Russian: Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин, born October 7, 1952) is a Russian politician.
(3) with parentheses
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin (Russian: Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин) (born October 7, 1952) is a Russian politician.

Which one is the optimal or preferred one? Which other ones are in use? -- User:Docu

I have absolutely no idea, and judging by the fact that I'm the first response in (I think) two days, few others do.
If you ask me, I like the semicolon. Makes most sense. To be honest, don't know much on the matter. Neonumbers 07:42, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
I agree, the semicolon makes the most sense. A comma, certainly, is not the right punctuation for distinguishing such data, especially when a comma may already be used in the date, so a comma is not appropriate. Having multiple parentheses seems excessive and not clean formatting. -- Centrx 17:32, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
Thank you for your reponses. Semicolon looks fine to me as well. I will go with that for now and list more variants as I come across them. -- User:Docu

Non-breaking space before non-abbreviated unit

I’m certain that a non-breaking space is required between the number value and the unit if the unit is abbreviated, but is it required when the unit is not abbreviated? For example, is the   in 50 centimetres necessary? --HeteroZellous 19:37, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

If the number is written as a numeral ("50") then there should be a non-breaking space so it is not left hanging at the end of a sentence. If the number is written out as a word ("fifty") then there need not be a non-breaking space. -- Centrx 00:14, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
These should be handled by the software, not written in manually... — Omegatron 00:29, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
I agree that the software should handle this but I have just fixed a problem of the word "million" falling to the start of the next line leaving "£7" hanging precariously at the end of the preceding line. I had to use   to prevent a premature devaluation. -- Alias Flood 02:07, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
I agree too that it should be handled by the software (or, anyway, in a single point of maintenance). As a general remark (meta-guideline?), I would advise against complex guidelines such as "if it's abbreviated do this, if it's spelled out do this instead". In my experience on wikipedia they highly increase the error rate from both newcomers and expert editors, and consequently the amount of article fixes and edit history noise, for a very little gain. —Gennaro Prota•Talk 16:17, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

Understood. Thanks everyone. --HeteroZellous 10:10, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

Re Centrix: That's not the impression I get, and it's not the way that the wiki code is currently (full disclosure—it was inconsistent a few weeks ago, and I changed it to its current state). Either way though, not a big deal; if that's the way people want it, let's make it more clear on the actual page. --Spangineer[es] (háblame) 12:27, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
There are many formatting policies not implemented or enforced in the wiki code, that doesn't mean they aren't part of the recommended style. By the premise of the initial question, the nbsp in an abbreviated unit is not in the wiki code either. In software, this would be implemented by having a list of unit names, which could not be exhaustive? -- Centrx 17:29, 2 June 2006 (UTC)
One would hope that the WP:MoS would at least be the one thing that complies with the WP:MoS. If you click the section edit link at WP:DATE#Units of measurement, you'll see things like "the Moon is 380,000 kilometres (240,000 mi) from Earth". If policy is truly that   always follows numbers, that should be explicitly stated and the examples here be fixed. --Spangineer[es] (háblame) 13:13, 3 June 2006 (UTC)

Just to be clear: the SI defining standard ISO-31 does not require a non-breaking space between the number and the unit symbol. It specifies a normal blank. −Woodstone 14:16, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

This applies to the abbreviated units too? Also, does the standard simply ignore it, or does it explicitly state that there should be a regular space? -- Centrx 17:29, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

The standard states "a space is always used to separate the unit from the number". This is true both for symbols (they are never called abbreviations) and written out names. There is no explicit mention of non-breaking. In their own documentation, I found by peeking at the source, they are not really consistent, but often use the html "nobr" tag, like in <nobr>123 km</nobr> to keep number and unit together. However this does not seem to work on wikipedia. −Woodstone 21:36, 2 June 2006 (UTC)

The <nobr> tag is no longer standard HTML. It has been superseded by the non-breaking space entity. — Gulliver 00:20, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

Uh? Has it ever been standard? —Gennaro Prota•Talk 00:55, 5 June 2006 (UTC)
Good point. It is a proprietory Netscape tag. It is no longer necessary. The two modern solutions are &nbsp; and <span style="white-space: nowrap;">...</span>. — Gulliver 12:59, 7 June 2006 (UTC)

"Do not append an s for plurals of unit abbreviations."

At least in the case of "lb" versus "lbs", it seems to be an AE/BE issue (I haven't yet found an unequivocal statement yet, but googling various combinations, and especially comparing US[1] and UK[2] dictionaries seems to reflect a BE/AE diff), so saying 'only "lb" is correct', and people routinely making that 'correction', doesn't seem compatible with 'all forms of English are welcome on Wikipedia' and related guidelines. 23:35, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

Is this an example where spelling out of the unit would be appropriate? Rich Farmbrough 08:38

"Whit Monday" and "Super Tuesday"

<moved further down for additional comments on July 14, 2006> -- User:Docu

Example sentence in "Units of measurement" section

One of the example sentences was changed by Hardern for standardization purposes. The original sentence starts off in the metric system (English system) than switches to English (metric). I believe that this was originally done to show the look in both systems. The problem was is that one would probably never see a sentence structured in such a way. It wasn't the best example, so Hardern and later Woodstone changed the sentence so that it read: Use digits and unit symbols for values in parentheses and for measurements in tables. For example, "a pipe 100 millimetres (4 in) in diameter and 16 kilometres (10 mi) long". For clarity's sake and to show the reverse, I added: "or a pipe 4 inches (100 mm) in diameter and 10 miles (16 km) long", at the end of the example sentence.—MJCdetroit 03:22, 9 June 2006 (UTC)

It was me that created the example. As you suggest, it was intended to show both systems. However, I also intended it to show that source data should go first. You said that you think such a sentence is unlikely, but it is entirely plausible in some parts of the world (e.g. the UK). Furthermore, such 'source-data-first' sequences occur right here in Wikipedia (you will find plenty of examples in car and aircraft articles). But it was just an example and I don't mind it being changed.
See the above section titled Small deregulation of 'units of measurement' section.. It contains a proposal to remove this bullet entirely because it fails my 'guidance-about-guidance' (described in that section). Removal of the bullet would end the problem that you describe. bobblewik 15:26, 10 June 2006 (UTC)

Symbols for square miles

We have a variety of symbols for squares and cubes of units. Metric units are easy. Where it says 'sq km', I either expand it to 'square kilometre' or 'square kilometer' or I make it a symbol 'km²'.

However, non-metric units are less easy. I don't usually worry but mixing styles is inconsistent. For example the US state infobox e.g. Montana pairs 'km²' with 'sq mi'. I would not like to resolve the inconsistency by going to the language dependent form 'sq km'. In other articles we see 'mi²' and 'mile²'. What do other people prefer? bobblewik 21:47, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

We have here a contrast between scientific and traditional units. I see no objection in extending that to scientific (power 2) and traditional (square) surface measure. So a pair "km²" with "sq mi" should be ok. Another alternative is of course to convert to acres instead, avoiding the square altogether. −Woodstone 22:08, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
I prefer 'sq mi'. Here's my reasons why:
  • The NIST gives two abbreviations for square mile—'mi²' (following after the metric pattern) and 'sq mi' (the traditional pattern). I like 'sq mi' over 'mi²' because it sets it appart from 'km²' and when quickly reading it won't be confused for square metres (m²).
  • The U.S. state department uses 'sq mi' for square miles Example.
  • The Encarta and Britannica encyclopedias uses 'sq km' and 'sq mi'. While the World Book spells out every thing.
In common usage you are more likely (in my experience) to see 'sq mi' than 'mi²' and I have never seen 'mile²' before. I have seen 'sq miles' used before and that would probably be fine for an abbrivated conversion in the text of an article but it probably would be too long for tables and infoboxes. That's why I believe 'sq mi' is the better abbreviation for square miles. Those are my thoughts. —MJCdetroit 00:41, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
That US DoS link you give actually uses the same ill convention as the encyclopædias you name, but with dots. The only thing worth learning from these is consistency. As we certainly won’t change “km²” to “sq km” this would mean we had to use “mi²” (although I consider abbreviations of non-metric unit not as symbols and thus would append a dot). We then would also have to use “mi/h” instead of “mph” etc. I’d like that, but you won’t get consensus on that as long as everyday experience in the USA differs from this. This English legacy is just a complete mess. Christoph Päper 07:41, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
Why not change "km²" to "sq km"? —Centrxtalk 08:56, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
Because "sq km" is not a valid SI unit. −Woodstone 17:58, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
The abbreviation 'km²' seems to be well established in Wikipedia. Just because we use 'km²' for square kilometres does not mean that we have to use 'mi²' for square miles and 'mi/h' for miles per hour (as suggested by Christoph Päper). We have the flexability to use what ever we see fit; hense the discussion. I believe that we should use the scientific/metric pattern for SI/metric units (i.e. 'km²' not 'sq km') and use the traditional pattern for customary units (i.e. 'sq mi' not 'mi²') as I stated above. —MJCdetroit 18:28, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
The square kilometre is indeed a valid SI unit, and "sq km" is an abbreviation of "square kilometre". Just because it doesn't use the "km²" notation does not mean it is not a valid SI unit. —Centrxtalk 22:43, 13 June 2006 (UTC)
I don't see what's wrong with using "km²" and "sq mi" throughout. Both notations are far more common than their counterparts, and IMO the added benefit is that they visually pretty distinct between themselves. The "consistency" of using "km²"+"mi²" or "sq km"+"sq mi" would be quite artificially imposed. Duja 09:41, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
Fully agreed. Anyone who who is concerned that using both km² and sq mi is "inconsistent" is advised to heed the words of Emerson. 20:03, 22 June 2006 (UTC)
There are quite a few different ways in which people write 'km²' (e.g. '', 'sq. km.', 'sqkm', 'sq kms' etc). They can all be made consistent using a monobook tool. Anyone that wants to do this, see the Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style_(dates_and_numbers)#Unit_format_tool section on this page. Once it is set up, you only need to click once on a 'units' tab. It deals with a lot of unit inconsistencies but it does not currently deal with the many different styles for square miles (e.g. 'sq.mi', 'sq. mi.', 'sq mile', 'sq m', etc). It also has a 'dates' tab to deal with solitary days, months, years. Hope that helps. bobblewik 11:20, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

As a matter of closure, can we conclude that:

  • km² & sq mi are the preferred abbreviations and
  • sq km & mi² are acceptable but are not preferred and
  • that the following abbreviations maybe acceptable for use within the text but are not acceptable for tables and infoboxes: sq miles & mile²?

Also, 'sq m' should never be used for square miles (or square metres).—MJCdetroit 12:40, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

Personally, I'd discourage sq km & mi² as much as possible. "sq" versions are likely "Americanisms", while "²" versions are likely "Europeanisms"; normally, an American would be interested in the sq mi version and an European (and most of the rest of the world) in the km² version. Thus, the symbols should be presented in the most common notation. Duja 13:55, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

What is wrong with "sq km"? Why would that be only an "Americanism"? —Centrxtalk • 06:40, 24 June 2006 (UTC)

Maybe it's just my reflex from my native tongue and engineering education, but it looks fairly odd to me. As someone pointed out above, it's not a valid SI notation either. I'd rather let an e.g. Briton comment further... ["sq km" site:*.uk Google search] seems to contradict my opinion... Duja 08:08, 24 June 2006 (UTC)
I don't agree that it is an Americanism vs Europeanism (just type sq km into It is simply the traditional vs scientific way of abbreviation. There is nothing wrong with 'sq km', but what is most common? I agree with Duja that km² and sq mi are the most common abbreviations for square kilometres and miles. Therefore, we sould prefer/incourage the use of those two. —MJCdetroit 14:10, 24 June 2006 (UTC)
There is no reason given why "sq km" is not acceptable in SI. The name of the derived SI unit "square kilometre". "sq km" is an abbreviation of that name. While it is not the official symbol, it is an abbreviation of two words and there is no prohibition of it. "km²" is more common in scientific use, but on Google search, we find ~9.5 million hits for — "sq km" -wikipedia -"km²" — and ~10 .1 million hits for — km² -wikipedia -"sq km" —. This does undercount "km²", because for example "km2" has relevant hits but can't be used in the search because most of its hits are not the unit, but at the very least "sq km" is common. —Centrxtalk • 20:37, 24 June 2006 (UTC)

Centrxtalk • 20:37, 24 June 2006 (UTC)

Quote from the official SI brochure (p 38):
It is not permissible to use abbreviations for unit symbols or unit names, such as sec (for either s or second), sq. mm (for either mm2 or square millimetre), cc (for either cm3 or cubic centimetre), or mps (for either m/s or metre per second).
So it is either km² or square kilometre (note: "km" is not an abbreviation, it is a symbol). −Woodstone 22:01, 24 June 2006 (UTC)
Okay. Still, "sq km" is common, and what is the ambiguity in "sq km", which is the justification for that rule? —Centrxtalk • 01:20, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
I prefer mi² instead of "sq mi", as it looks more consistent with km². It also saves valuable screen real estate in infoboxes, where an extra couple characters can further stretch a box. --MattWright (talk) 05:08, 21 July 2006 (UTC)